Administrators Doubt Advantages Of Free Online Courses

Ann McClure's picture

The University is poised to join its most prestigious peers and offer free online courses available to anyone in the world, but some top administrators are skeptical – which could cause the plans to hit a wall.

GW’s new online learning czar Paul Schiff Berman said in early January that he will spend his first months planning a rollout of massive open online courses, or MOOCs – which include Web lectures, slides and videos for non-degree courses ranging from philosophy to web design. Across GW’s colleges though, there is uncertainty about the courses’ academic potential.

The free programs have caught fire around higher education, with top universities like Stanford, Harvard, Duke, Princeton and Columbia leading the pack.

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peg Barratt said she has reservations about the courses that could potentially be taught to tens of thousands of students from across the globe. She said because of their enormous class sizes, the quality of education may not be up to par.

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